Monday, 24 November 2008

Evaluating the Performance of Knowledge Workers

I've recently been talking to people about evaluating performance of Concept Workers. I want to thank Dave who has provided thoughts in several posts such as Getting to Exemplary.


Evaluating concept worker performance is an interesting challenge:
  • No right answer - Most often there is no single right answer. Which authoring tool, LMS, etc. we should use in a particular situation - you can't possibly get it exactly right. You are trying always to arrive at a reasonably correct answer given all the other factors (amount of time you can spend finding an answer, etc.)
  • Evaluator knowledge limit - In most cases, the person doing the performance evaluation knows less about the subject that the performer. So, they can't directly judge the answer, but may be able to sense when answers are possibly not correct.
The interesting bottom line has been that the way you evaluate a concept workers performance is by looking at signals such as:
  • Process - They went through a reasonable process to arrive at their conclusions.
  • Reasonable - Their conclusions are reasonable in your opinion (if you can formulate one).
  • Compare - If you took what they did and compared it to what you would expect from other similar performers, would they have arrived at the same result.
To me this has heightened my sensitivity to the need for concept workers to reach out to people for knowledge work tasks in order to ensure they will receive a good evaluation. It reinforces the fact that Leveraging Networks is Key Skill. I'm coming to believe this is the most important Knowledge Worker Skill Gap. This makes this things like: Network Feedback, Finding expertise, Using Social Media to Find Answers to Questions, Learning through Conversation very important topics.

What I've been saying in recent presentations is that going to Google and searching for information as your primary mechanism leaves you open to criticism. Instead, having a conversation with a peer can give you feedback on:
  • Was my process appropriate?
  • Is my answer reasonable?
  • How does my answer compare?
And if you want to be mercenary about it, the real bottom line is that if someone challenges your answers, you have already done their evaluation for them. You can say, "Look, I talked to a couple of people who have done this before. They said I've gone through the right steps. I've looked at the right stuff. My answer seems pretty reasonable. If they would have done it, they would have come up with the same thing."

There's a beauty in this!

But it does require better ability to reach into networks for help.

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